Recently, a horror story about microscopic bugs (the ancanthamoeba) eating
through the corneas of a Taiwanese student made headlines. The young woman,
who is now blind in both eyes, unwisely wore limited-wear, disposable
contacts for several months,
even went swimming during this period.
While this story should give contact lens wearers pause – the acanthamoeba
can survive in tap water, hot tubs and swimming pools – these cases
are rare. At the same time, contact lens wearers put their vision at risk
every day by:
- Skipping annual eye health exams.
- Buying cheap lenses online without a prescription or doctor administered
- Not removing disposable lenses daily.
- Not following proper lens cleaning procedures.
If you wear contacts, you could easily be putting your eye health at risk
for the following complications:
1. Eye Infections
Key-Whitman Eye Center’s
Ophthalmologist and Cornea Specialist Faisal Haq, M.D. commonly sees patients with severe complications due to improper contact
lens wear. “Over the years I’ve seen plenty of complications
from contact lenses, and the most serious problem is infection. Every
week or two I’ll see a patient with a corneal ulcer, which is a
direct result of contact lens wear,” Dr. Haq warns.
Unfortunately, people have a false sense of security regarding extended
lens wear. According to Dr. Haq, “Most commonly, infection results
because people sleep in their contacts, and this is a growing problem
with extended wear contacts, because the manufacturer tells people they
can sleep with the contacts.”
In addition, people who don’t properly care for or clean their lenses
increase their risk for infection. For this reason, Dr. Haq recommends
“people use daily disposables. Just wear them during the day when
you need them, and when you get home, wear your glasses.”
2. Vision Loss and/or Blindness
People need to give their eyes a break from contacts to help ensure eye
health. Says Dr. Haq, “Contact lenses cause a deprivation of oxygen
to the cornea, this increases the risk of infection, and these infections
can be very serious and even sight threatening.”
Dr. Haq stresses, “It’s not just about the right prescription
strength. If you’re wearing a contact lens that is too tight, then
you can experience more discomfort and dryness, and that can also increase
the risk of infection. Getting a proper lens fitting and
annual eye health exams can easily reduce this risk.”
One contact lens size does not fit all, which is why the Food and Drug
Administration (FDA) regulates contact lenses as a medical device, and
you need a prescription to purchase them. The FDA advises consumers to
be wary of purchasing contacts that are sold over-the-counter or for cosmetic
use and not prescribed and fitted by an ophthalmologist or optometrist.
A poor fit can cause
serious eye damage including decreased vision and blindness according to the FDA.
3. Giant Papillary Conjunctivitis (GPC)
Another complication that Dr. Haq often sees is GPC. “This occurs
when patients are allergic to contact lenses. When people contract this
condition, large bumps will grow on the inside of their eyelids. The papillae,
or growths, really are giant, which makes this condition difficult to
get rid of and quite uncomfortable.”
If you experience any eye irritation or see bumps on your eyelids, stop
wearing your contacts and contact your eye doctor immediately. The sooner
you seek treatment for GPC, the easier the condition will be to treat.
4. Dry Eye Syndrome
“We commonly see dry eye problems in patients who wear contacts,
and wearing contacts definitely makes dry eye syndrome worse. A lot of
people can’t tolerate wearing contacts due to the discomfort dry
eye causes,” Dr. Haq says.
Along with discomfort, Dr. Haq finds, “People who wear contacts and
have dry eye syndrome can experience abrasions and infections to the cornea
as well.” If you experience dryness or discomfort while wearing
contacts, talk to your eye doctor about
dry eye treatment options before serious complications result.
LASIK surgery can be a safe, cost-effective alternative to contacts
National research published in the
Archives of Ophthalmology shows the risk of infection with LASIK is less than the risk of infection
with daily contact lens use. “I certainly see a lot more contact
lens complications than I see complications from LASIK. I’ve yet
to see in my 9 years practicing at Key-Whitman a serious infection from
LASIK. I do see many serious infections from contact lens wear,”
Dr. Haq says.
LASIK eye surgery also offers many benefits that contact lenses do not. “For most
patients, the cost of contact lenses over a lifetime is more than LASIK,
and once the surgery is done, it’s done. LASIK is typically much
more convenient. In addition, we have a long follow up time now on LASIK
patients. Our LASIK eye surgeons have been performing surgery at our Dallas
laser eye surgery center since the mid-90s, so we have almost 20 years
treating many patients. In our experience it’s been very stable,
steady and very safe,” Dr. Haq says.
If you wear contact lenses and haven’t seen your eye doctor in the
schedule an annual eye exam right away. Ongoing vision care is critical for maintaining healthy eyesight,
and he or she can help you weigh your eye care options regarding safe
contact lenses, eyeglasses and LASIK surgery.
Photo Source: iStock by Getty Images